With what’s going on in the US right now, it’s naive to say that teams, institutions, and athletes should just stick to sports and keep their mouths shut because that narrative diminishes the scope of racism, implying that it isn’t an issue in sports (especially hockey, being a predominantly white sport) and that players are wrong in using their platform to speak out against injustice.
It’s not uncommon for the NHL or it’s member clubs to release a press statement on current events, but this is one of the first times we’ve seen players speak out by releasing their own statements.
Jonathan Toews, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and captain of the Chicago Blackhawks posted a message to Instagram recently, speaking in the murder of George Floyd and protests against police brutality. His statement acknowledges his privilege, being a white male residing in the US, voices his support for the Black Lives Matter Movement, and also condemns racism and discrimination. Spoken with the understanding that he could never truly understand the pain and anger people of color, he stresses the need to emphasize and listen to those suppressed by racism.
As usual, Toews spoke with great eloquence. His statement, posted to his 174,000 Instagram followers on Monday, has been viewed more than 200,000 times and reposted across multiple social media platforms for many more to see. Toews has proven to be a leader both on and off the ice. We applaud you, captain.
K’andre Miller, former Wisconsin Badger and recent signee for the New York Rangers, also spoke out recently about his own experience with racism in hockey. In March, after signing with the Rangers, Miller was introduced to fans on a zoom call where the chat was flooded with racial slurs. The hockey community came out to voice their love and support for K’andre, but looking back, the situation could have been handled better. I urge everyone reading to take a look at his statement below and read it for yourself.
What Miller discusses is something we all need to address. Racism exists at every level of hockey, from mini mites to the NHL, and as fans, players, coaches, staff, whatever your role is, we all need to work on improving the inclusivity of hockey and giving black athletes the support they deserve when faced with discrimination. I am very proud to have worked with K’andre Miller at the USNTDP and this past season at the University of Wisconsin. He is an excellent defenseman and I can’t wait to watch him make his mark in the NHL.
Other players including Auston Matthews, Tyler Seguin, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, JT Brown, and Logan Couture have spoken out on the murder of George Floyd and used their platforms to call out discrimination. Some have faced backlash; fans reply that they aren’t qualified to speak out or that they should just stick to hockey, but this issue is bigger than hockey, and hockey is not exempt from the inequalities we’re faced with.
Information about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as other ways to get involved, can be found here: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Stay safe everyone.